2012 was a crazy year for Mike Zunino which included about 70 college baseball games with the Florida Gators before being selected by the Seattle Mariners as the No. 3 overall selection in the draft and playing in 34 Minor League games and 20 more in the Arizona Fall League. He even found time to get married to his high school sweetheart Alyssa Barry, complete with a one-night honeymoon. 2013 looks to be another exciting year as he prepares for his first Major League camp as he prepares to start Spring Training with the big league club.
The 21-year old Zunino has been pegged as the catcher of the future for Seattle and will be one of six catchers who will report next Tuesday in Peoria. He’s already caught the eye of plenty of people around baseball, ranking as the No. 23 overall prospect in MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects list. Minor League coordinator Chris Gwynn praised Zunino for being “well ahead of most college players who come out,” but cautions against hoping to see Zunino make the Opening Day roster this season.
The Florida All-American has been impressive, but he’s still got plenty to learn before he takes over catching duties at the big league level. Defensively, he still has quite a bit to learn and will need to be well-seasoned with an ability to catch a Major League rotation before he can be relied upon. Offensively, he’s pretty good but doesn’t have the experience (161 at-bats in the Minors) to really know if he’s the real deal.
Zunino will focus his energies this Spring Training on getting to know his teammates while playing to the best of his ability and learning as much as he can while he’s sharing the field with his big league counterparts. While it’s clear Zunino is on the fast-track to the Majors, he’ll need more than 34 games split between Class A Everett and Double-A Jackson to make it to Seattle. An extended stint with Triple-A Tacoma is the most likely landing spot out of camp.
For now, the M’s will rely on the veteran services of Kelly Shoppach and Ronnie Paulino to back up Jesus Montero while Zunino continues to mature and develop. M’s fans will get to see the “catcher of the future” this Spring in the desert, but the future likely won’t hit Seattle for another half-season at least.